I have had the good fortune of working with many talented and successful professionals as a Career Coach and Career Transition Consultant. When it comes to interview having a strategy absolutely works in your favor.
It is well said, “those get the job that are most prepared and not necessarily most qualified”. Here then is a strategy, a plan of actions to help you prepare.
1. Gather Intelligence. First step, start reading and gathering intelligence on the company leadership and their business philosophy/strategy, worldview and values. Familiarize yourself with the company, its history, its products, the competitors and the industry they operate-in. Research the current and new trends in their industry and how that may impact the way they do business in the future. This helps you understand their challenges and hot issues that you can refer to during the interview, it also sends the message that the company is important to you. More importantly your health, finances and career fulfilment depends on your next decision, would you not want that decision be well informed?
2. Break The Ice. Since interviews often take place in a meeting room and not in the personal offices, begin to pay attention from the moment you enter the building and consciously look for what can be used as an icebreaker. The location, the view from the room, the layout of the office/meeting room… for example once a manager from a major Telecom company as he entered the interview room pointed at my Blackberry sitting on the desk and said “our competitors, oh No!” I found his presence, awareness and sense of humour a strength. He had immediately made an impact.
3. Stories that help you stand out from the crowd. I have observed a direct correlation between my clients’ interview outcome and the number of the success-stories they shared. Your third move going to an interview must be “I am going to this interview to share 5 success-stories”. And then be very attentive, present and aware to fish for the questions that you can apply these stories with. What is a typical question that begs for a success-story? “What are you strengths?” This is an excellent opportunity to use one of your stories. Can you think of some more?
4. Two Minutes Rule. Keep your answers to the point and don’t get lost in lengthy replies. It may bore the interviewer and lose interest in you or be interpreted as unprofessional, not caring about their limited time and busy schedule, most importantly you may say something that is shooting yourself in the foot – don’t ramble, don’t volunteer extra information. Keep it to the point. That is why we have the step 3 in above. Creating and sharing these success stories help you stay focused and concise.Keep the answers to 2 minutes max. If you want to add something extra ask “would you like me to elaborate more?”
5. Dialoguing. Ok, so you have successfully broken the ice and stayed focus by sharing success stories then what? Up to this point perhaps 10- 20 minutes into the interview, it is not uncommon that the interview process resembles a monologue – interviewer asks the question and you do all of the talking by providing the answer and then the next question and the next answer – kind of mechanical and machine like. At worst it may seem like an interrogation.
Be attentive and on the look and at opportune time add an open-ended question to the end of your answers. For example, you just finished answering the question “What are your strength?” with a relevant well thought-out success story. Don’t stop there, this is your time to ask a question. You can end your success story by asking, “What would be the most relevant skills and strength in this role or first assignment?”
This way you are changing the energy of the interview process by creating a dialogue and not a stale monologue, it also enables you to learn about the role and how to select your next success-story for sharing. Now the two of you are dialoguing that takes the pressure off the interview and the interveiwer – especially if he/she is not comfortable with the interviewing process.
6. Closure. Ok then, you have prepared well for the interview and have applied the above steps successfully. What then?
Make sure before the end of your interview to clarify what the next step/s and expectations are? If not explained to you already, ask, “What would be next step and when will I hear back from you?” Or ask, “How many candidates are you interviewing for the next step and when will I hear back from you?”
Let’s say you are told that they will get back to you in a week’s time, you may then add “I understand you may be very busy, is it ok to connect with you if I don’t hear back from you in a week’s time?” This helps clear up any anxiety you may have to follow up with them in the event you don’t hear back in due time. Then ask for their contact information. You need this for next step.
7. Thank-You letter. Within the next 24-48 hours send a thank-you email emphasising your enthusiasm about the role. Also, briefly point to a key comment made by the interviewer and show how your skills and expertise makes you a great fit. That is why you need the step number 4.
8. Review. Immediately after the interview take a few minutes to review and jot-down the important highlights. Start with the steps in above and ask which steps worked well and why? What did not worked well and why? What could you add? What could you change or omit? …
This can take only 15-20 minutes and helps generate great insights to make your strategy more effective and fine-tuned.
The Trust That Gets You Hired. Having a strategy/map helps you travel the interview landscape more prepared and with less anxiety. At the same time remember the map is not the territory, so revise and make the process more customized to your unique needs and the person you are. Go through the process consciously it sure will reveal so much about yourself-to-yourself and that self-awareness makes you more informed, authentic and trusting and the trust gets you hired.
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